Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Seth Johnson
Joe Giannattasio has worn many hats in his life. Restaurateur, pharmaceutical company representative, purveyor of fine ice cream and mini golf – but it’s for the hats he wears in the Coast Guard Auxiliary he was selected to be the Coast Guard Auxiliary Member of the Year, out of 24,000 people
Giannattasio, a Cape May, New Jersey, native, is a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is an all-volunteer component of the Coast Guard comprised of people who don a uniform and spend their time helping the Coast Guard execute its boating safety and marine safety missions, and he’s been volunteering his time this way for the past 15 years.
Giannattasio assists in Coast Guard missions by flying his airplane for training and air monitoring. He also drives his boat to assist with recreational boating safety. He is a certified trainer, an in-port watchstander on 87-foot patrol boats, and the regional public affairs officer for the Auxiliary. He also spearheaded a program to send digital media gift cards to Coast Guard members deployed to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia two years in a row. It’s the combination of these efforts and his selflessness that shined forth in his selection for Auxiliarist of the Year.
“I’ve been accused sometimes of doing too much,” Giannattasio said, “and the only response I can think of is that when you enjoy something or love what you’re doing, you really don’t experience a burden.”
Giannattasio, has also played an integral role in rebuilding the Auxiliary Air Program in the 5th District Northern Region, which is now used to assist training pilots.
“The impressive thing is that Joe does all of this and he isn’t even retired. He runs his own business and does all of this on the side” said Lt. Cmdr. Victoria Taylor, Director of Auxiliary for the 5th District Northern Region.
Giannattasio, who moved home to Cape May in 2003, where he runs an ice cream and mini golf business, constantly looks for new responsibilities and accomplishments because he loves volunteering with the Auxiliary. In fact, he logged 2,700 hours of volunteer work in 2017.
“Being in the Coast Guard Auxiliary has made me a better person overall and I love the adventures that it has offered me,” he said, “Take for instance that I drive boats and fly planes. In all the years I have been doing these vocations, it’s rare you’re given an opportunity where you’re are offered the chance to put these vocations to use for a great cause. This has allowed me to advance my expertise in these fields to the point that is required by the Coast Guard and whether it’s flying a plane, driving a boat, interaction with the public or doing inspections it gives greater satisfaction not only mastering these tasks, but putting them to use for a great cause.”
Giannattasio said he was humbled by his selection and enjoyed receiving a call from Adm. Karl Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard, who said he wanted to be the first to congratulate him on his selection of Auxiliarist of the Year. Giannattasio was recognized in front of his peers by Adm. Charles Ray, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, at the 2017 Auxiliary National Convention in Orlando, Florida on Aug. 25, 2018.
“It was a combination of great satisfaction, pride and embarrassment getting recognized for this, Giannattasio said, “It’s an honor to be recognized for the work that I do and the accomplishments, but it’s also a reflection of the auxiliary and active duty people who have mentored, trained and worked together with me on a lot of these things in the auxiliary. I don’t do what I do alone, I do it with a team of people.”
Taylor says that people can volunteer in so many capacities, but it takes a special group of individuals to volunteer for the Auxiliary, because they have to go through a large amount of training to participate. She said Joe does it all with humility, fortitude and selflessness.
When he’s not driving his boat, flying his plane, training active duty and auxiliary members, taking photos, standing watch, or organizing quality of life gifts for active duty members, Giannattasio says he enjoys golfing and running his business.
“To anyone who may think of joining the Auxiliary – don’t be afraid to try new things and always offer to help,” said Giannattasio.